Reservoir Dogs

Template:Infobox Movie

Reservoir Dogs is Quentin Tarantino's 1992 debut as a feature film director. It co-stars Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, and Lawrence Tierney. Tarantino also has a minor role as does former professional criminal, who later turned author, Eddie Bunker (who had been the technical adviser for the 1978 crime film "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman as a small time jewel thief.)

The screenplay, written by Tarantino, was inspired by Hong Kong director Ringo Lam's 1987 Long hu feng yun (City on Fire), starring Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee. Reportedly one of Tarantino's favourite films, he borrowed much of the plot as well as many of the scenes.

Tarantino (who had been working as a video store clerk in the Los Angeles community of Manhattan Beach) was originally going to shoot it with his friends, but luckily he was able to get the script to actor Harvey Keitel, who loved it. Funds were raised partly from selling the script for True Romance and what funds Keitel himself could raise. The final budget was a mere $1.2 million. The makers had so little to work with that many of the costumes used in the film belonged to the actors themselves.

The title is a combination of the film Straw Dogs and a corruption of Au revoir, les enfants, a film by Louis Malle.


Plot synopsis


Missing image
Mr. Brown (Tarantino) offers insight into Madonna's song Like a Virgin.

The film portrays the events preceding and immediately following a badly botched Los Angeles jewel heist (but not the actual heist itself) orchestrated by Joe "Daddy" Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and his son "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot (Chris Penn). Six men are recruited by the Cabots to carry out the heist and, for reasons of security, are given "color" aliases — Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker), and Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino) — to protect their identities and are further instructed to never tell one another anything of their personal backgrounds.

Reservoir Dogs begins with Joe, Eddie, Pink, Orange, Brown, Blue, Blonde, and White eating breakfast at a small diner. Mr. Brown at length discusses his interpretation of Madonna's popular song Like a Virgin, after which Mr. Pink expresses his anti-tipping policy.

Title Sequence

To the accompaniement of "Little Green Bag" the gang including "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot are shown in slow motion walking towards the heist vehicles. The sequence has become iconic and much imitated and provided the basis for the film's poster.

The warehouse

The scene jumps to a car with Mr. White and Mr. Orange immediately following the failed robbery. Mr. Orange has been seriously injured by a gunshot to the lower abdomen, and Mr. White is attempting to comfort him while at the same time trying to navigate the car back to the pre-arranged rendezvous, a warehouse.

At the warehouse, Mr. White and Mr. Orange discover that they are the first to arrive. White sets Orange down on a ramp for elevation and lies with him comfortingly. Mr. Pink comes in shortly thereafter, and discusses with Mr. White what went wrong while Mr. Orange lies on the warehouse floor bleeding profusely. Mr. Pink suggests a setup since a large contingent of police officers with guns drawn arrived almost immediately after the alarm had been set off. Mr. Pink reveals that he was nevertheless able to take the diamonds and hide them.

Flashback: Mr. Pink running down the sidewalk, a valise filled with millions of dollars worth of diamonds in hand and police hot on his tail. He is hit by a car at an intersection, but manages to get up and wrench a kicking and screaming driver out through the window, shoot and kill two of the pursuing officers, and drive off amidst a hail of gunfire.

Back at the warehouse, Mr. Pink and Mr. White both express their anger at and confusion over the fact Mr. Blonde shot and killed all of the hostages after the alarm was set off. They discuss briefly their views on unnecessary violence, and Mr. Pink suggests that the Cabots will likely turn them in to the police in an effort to deflect some of the blame for the slaughter from themselves.

Mr. White and Mr. Pink move to the main floor of the warehouse with the badly injured Mr. Orange. Mr. White and Mr. Pink argue over whether or not to leave the warehouse in fear of being apprehended by the police, and whether or not to take Mr. Orange to a hospital. When Mr. White reveals to Mr. Pink that he'd told Mr. Orange his place of birth during the course of "natural conversation", as well as his first name in the car to comfort him (he is Larry from Milwaukee) -- in violation of Joe Cabot's instructions -- Mr. Pink begins to fear for his own safety and argues with Mr. White, briefly accusing Mr. White of being a police informer.

Missing image
Mr. Blonde, Mr. White, and Mr. Pink look into the trunk with the tied-up officer inside.

The argument climaxes with both men pointing loaded pistols at each other. Unnoticed, Mr. Blonde steps in sipping a soda and speaks up; he'd been watching for some time now. Their arguing continues, although not as dramatically, until Mr. Blonde takes them outside to his car. Mr. Blonde opens the trunk to reveal a captured police officer.

Flashback: Joe Cabot's office and the revelation of Mr. Blonde's true name--Vic Vega. Vic has just been released from prison after serving four years for taking the blame for a crime Joe had committed. Eddie and Vic wrestle around on the floor for a bit in a friendly way, while a testy Joe looks on in dismay. Joe and Eddie offer Vic a steady job with good pay (longshoreman) to reassure Vic's suspicious parole officer and allow Vic to move out of the state-run halfway house. Vic expresses a desire to perform "real work" (i.e., criminal activity); after some deliberation, Eddie asks to include Vic on the team for an upcoming diamond heist as a "good luck charm". Joe and Vic agree.

Eddie's arrival

The film returns to the present. Eddie is driving hastily towards the warehouse, talking on a cellular phone, discussing the "major problem" with one of Joseph's assistants ("Don"). He mentions a telephone conversation had with Vic beforehand regarding the botched heist and Vic's "driving around with a fucking cop in his trunk". The scene is spliced together with shots from the warehouse of Pink, Blonde and White chaining the officer up and beating him excessively. Eddie arrives at the warehouse and storms in to see them pounding on the police officer, already an unrecognizable bloody mess (Kirk Baltz). The three summarize the events of the afternoon to Eddie, who refuses to believe there is any setup. Eddie orders Mr. Pink and Mr. White to come with him to move the cars and to retrieve the stolen diamonds from Mr. Pink's hiding spot, while ordering Mr. Blonde to stay with the dying Mr. Orange and the tied up police officer.

Mr. White refuses to leave Mr. Blonde alone with Mr. Orange and the officer, calling him a psychopath, while Mr. Blonde calmly defends himself. Eddie dismisses the claims and takes Mr. White and Mr. Pink outside with him to move the cars and gather the diamonds, leaving Blonde alone with Mr. Orange and the officer.

The ear-cutting scene

At this point, the infamous ear-cutting scene begins. Mr. Blonde and the officer exchange some words. The officer denies knowing anything about the setup, and begs to be released. Mr. Blonde, in a disturbingly clam way, states that he does not care what the officer does or does not know, but that he is going to torture him in any case because he finds it amusing. After taping the officer's mouth shut, Mr. Blonde then draws a straight razor from out of his boot and tunes a radio to K-Billy's "Super Sounds of the '70s" marathon, which is playing "Stuck in the Middle With You" by Stealers Wheel. Moving slowly and sadistically in rhythm with the music towards the officer, he begins waving the blade about in front of his face. He slashes the officer's left cheek and takes a few steps backward. He then moves back up to the officer and violently grabs his head. The camera pans away as Mr. Blonde cuts off the officer's right ear with a protracted sawing motion, then pans back as he dangles it in front of the officer, who screams behind the tape in agony.

Mr. Blonde then casually walks out of the warehouse while the officer continues to scream in agony. He grabs a metal one gallon can of gasoline from the trunk of Eddie's car and brings it back inside. He opens the container and splashes gasoline over the officer and leaves a small trail of it on the ground as he steps back a few feet.

Missing image
Mr. Orange shoots Mr. Blonde.

Mr. Blonde rips the tape from the officer's face, and the officer tearfully begs for mercy. Mr. Blonde dismisses his requests and prepares to ignite the gasoline with his cigarette lighter. Suddenly, a series of gunshots ring out and hit Mr. Blonde several times in the chest, causing him to stagger backwards and fall into the wall. We see that the shooter is the now-conscious Mr. Orange.

Mr. Orange, clearly dying from his wound, tells the officer that he is actually an undercover police detective named Freddy Newandyke. The tied-up officer, who gives his name as Marvin Nash, reveals that he knew this all along, having met Mr. Orange five months previously (Mr. Orange did not remember this). Mr. Orange reassures the officer that a large police force is waiting a few blocks down the road for his signal to advance. The officer begs him to call in the force in light of both men's serious injuries, but Mr. Orange refuses to call anyone in until Joe arrives.

Revelations about Freddy/Mr. Orange

Flashback: Mr. Orange a/k/a Freddy and a police detective named Holdaway (Randy Brooks) meet at a restaurant. Freddy tells Holdaway that he has secured a spot in a heist with Joe Cabot. Freddy talks about his first meeting with the other members of the gang, and, judging from Mr. White's discussion about the Brewers, Holdaway guesses he is from Milwaukee.

Flashback: the first meeting, where Mr. Orange tells a story - which Mr. Orange memorized from a script Holdaway provided - about how he was almost caught by sheriff's deputies while carrying a travel bag full of marijuana while in the men's room the Los Angeles train station.

Flashback: A police station, Freddy and Holdaway search for info on Mr. White, who they discover is named Larry Dimmick. (This was omitted from the released version of the film but can be viewed as one of the extras on the "Anniversary Edition" DVD.)

Flashback: Mr. Orange's apartment a few days before the robbery, where he is called down to Eddie's car by cellular telephone. Mr. Orange arms himself with two handguns, places a wedding band on his finger (probably a good luck charm), looks at himself in the mirror and tries to calm himself down. Mr. Orange then proceeds to the warehouse where the robbers will receive their aliases.

Missing image
Joe Cabot talks to the group at a club.

Flashback: The rendezvous warehouse, before the robbery, where some of the group is talking and joking. When everyone finally arrives, Joe begins to explain the master plan and gives everyone — except for himself and Eddie — their aliases. Mr. Pink protests his name as being too effiminate and Mr. Brown says his name sounds too much like "Mr. Shit." The group argues until Joe quickly and bluntly lays down the law and regains control of the meeting. The scene ends as Joe begins describing the holdup plan.

Flashback: Freddy and Holdaway discussing the robbery plan. Freddy expresses his discomfort with the entire undercover operation but Holdaway calms him down and assures him that protection will be there for him. (Another scene which was deleted from the released version.)

Flashback: Mr. White and Mr. Orange sitting in a car in front of the diamond exchange several days before the robbery discussing the plan in detail. Mr. White quizzes Mr. Orange on the plan's details and offers advice on how to deal with any problems that may arise. There seems to be good chemistry between the two, Mr. White has taken a liking to Mr. Orange.

Flashback: Mr. Brown, Mr. White and Mr. Orange fleeing from the police immediately following the robbery. Mr. Brown, driving, is bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head and crashes into the back of a parked car. Mr. White jumps out of the car and runs to the end of the alley to find a police car coming around the corner. As the police car stops, Mr. White rapidly fires his two pistols into the car's windshield, killing both officers. Mr. White comes back to the car to find Mr. Brown dead. Mr. White and Mr. Orange proceed to the end of the alley and force a car to stop and order the driver out. The driver (Suzanne Celeste) however, is armed with a revolver and shoots Mr. Orange in the stomach just after he opens the door. Mr. Orange shoots the driver in the chest, killing her instantly. Mr. White pulls Mr. Orange, shocked by what he just did, into the car and they begin to drive to the rendezvous warehouse, the same scene with which the film proper began.

Climax and conclusion

Mr. White, Mr. Pink, and Eddie return to the warehouse to find Mr. Blonde dead and the officer bloodied and covered in gasoline.

Mr. Orange tells them that Mr. Blonde went insane and was going to burn the officer alive, and then kill Mr. Orange and the rest of the gang when they return, to take the diamonds for himself. Mr. White believes him, Eddie thinks he is lying, and Mr. Pink is neutral — trying to calm everyone down. Eddie, furious at Mr. Orange, pulls out his gun and shoots the injured officer several times in the chest, killing him. He then reveals to Mr. Orange Mr. Blonde's history of loyalty towards the Cabots, how he did four years without rolling over on them, and how after he gets out, and the Cabots make good on their obligations towards him, that it would be absurd for Blonde to just "decide, out of the fucking blue to rip us off!!". Joe walks in and claims that anything else Mr. Orange says would just be "more bullshit".

Missing image
Eddie, Joe, and Mr. White in a Mexican standoff as Mr. Orange lies dying on the floor.

Joe then accuses Mr. Orange of being an undercover cop because he wasn't "100% sure" that he could be trusted. Mr. White dismisses Joe's claim and adamantly defends Mr. Orange, stating that he "knows" him and he "wouldn't do that". Joe pulls his gun out and points it at Mr. Orange; Mr. White pulls his gun out and points it at Joe; and Eddie pulls his gun out and points it at Mr. White. Mr. Pink screams for everyone to calm down as the three yell at each other and threaten to shoot. Suddenly, everyone except for Mr. Pink and Mr. Orange open fire all at once.

In the script the standoff is not described. If one watches the film closely one can see that, in sequence: 1) Joe shoots Mr. Orange, 2) Mr. White then shoots and kills Joe for shooting Mr. Orange, 3) Eddie shoots Mr. White for shooting his father, and finally 4) Mr. White shoots and kills Eddie while falling after being shot. The bullet hitting Eddie is not seen, although Mr. White's gun points in his direction and fires a round; the mistake was acknowledged by director Tarantino as an error involving blood squibs that did not go off.

Joe and Eddie are dead, while Mr. White is wounded and collapses on the floor. Mr. Pink, unharmed, stares in shock at the carnage for a while - including the corpses of Mr. Blonde and the police officer, as well as the fatally-wounded Mr. Orange - then grabs the valise full of diamonds and runs out of the warehouse.

As squad cars roar outside the warehouse, Mr. White pulls Mr. Orange close to him and Mr. Orange tells Mr. White that he's a cop, and that he's sorry. Mr. White, clearly horrified and feeling, rightfully, betrayed by this statement, puts the gun to Mr. Orange's cheek as he tries to control his tears. The police storm inside and demand Mr. White put the gun down. At this point Tarantino pushes into a close-up on Mr. White's face. We don't see Mr. Orange as Mr. White shoots him in the head, followed by the police shooting Mr. White. After this the scene immediately cuts to the credits, accompanied by "Coconut" by Henry Nilsson.


As is stated above, the jewel heist itself is not shown; the majority of the film's conflict takes place between the criminals themselves as they attempt to sort out the events of the day, while the tension among them mounts. The jewel heist can be considered a McGuffin. The narration makes extensive use of flashbacks. For instance, at one point, the identity of the undercover cop, or "the rat" as the robbers put it, is revealed to the audience but not the protagonists.

The film quickly gained notoriety for the amount of profanity in the dialogue, and for the level of violence it contained. However, Tarantino has pointed out that there are actually very few scenes of overt violence shown: for instance, in the infamous "ear torture" scene, the camera focuses away from the actors at the critical point (instead scanning a wall on which the words "Watch Your Head" have been spray-painted).

By the standard of mainstream Hollywood action movies, the body count is quite low: there are 11 fatal shootings in the film. What is perhaps unusual about the violence in the film is the combination of gritty (and gory) realism with quirky touches, such as 1970s pop music, not least during the ear-slicing scene. The film takes place during K-Billy's "Super Sounds of the '70s" week-end radio marathon. Reservoir Dogs has been praised for its extremely creative usage of this during the story telling, using popular but completely context-inappropriate songs such as "Little Green Bag", "Stuck in the Middle With You" and "Coconut" during scenes where they should never have fit, and yet somehow manage to perfectly.

The film is a reversal of the traditional whodunit; instead of focusing on a police trying to figure out who committed a crime, it focuses on criminals who are trying identify the police informer among them.

Although all of the men are career criminals, each has his own separate set of ethics. We see them debate the importance of tipping waitresses and avoiding civilian casualties, the morality of indiscriminate sex, as well as the ethics of life-and-death situations.

Characters die because they are loyal: either to a friend (White dies because he feels responsible for Orange), to the Cabot gang (Blonde dies because he is about to kill the cop who could have implicated them all if allowed to live, Eddie dies defending his father), or to the police (Orange dies because he refuses to call in assistance for his injuries, placing his orders to get Joe Cabot foremost). Mr. Pink, who believes that loyalty is a liability and that "taking sides" is unprofessional and childish, is the only character that could have possibly survived, although it is up to the viewer's imagination as to what exactly happened to him after he left with the diamonds.


  • The part of Mr. Orange was written for James Woods but his agent threw the script in the bin without showing it to him. When Woods later learned of this he fired the agent.
  • During the scene where Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) tortures Officer Nash, the young cop begs for his life, saying he has a child at home. Madsen, who himself had just become a father in real life, was so upset by this line - the concept of leaving a young child without a father - that he had difficulty finishing the scene. (Actor Kirk Baltz, who played Nash, had ad-libbed the line during filming.)
  • In the original concept for Pulp Fiction, the diamonds from this heist were to be the contents of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase. Also, this movie's Vic Vega and Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega were supposed to be brothers.
  • For the European release the distributor used one sheet posters of the each of the main characters. This marketing strategy has since become widespread.
  • According to Quentin Tarantino, Mr. Pink survives but is arrested by the police - in the background, policemen can be heard ordering Pink to put his hands on the ground, then Pink says "I give up" after a brief firefight in which he is wounded but not killed.



External links

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